As has been mentioned before on this site, anniversaries in the cigar industry are something of a big deal with new blends released to commemorate any number of occasions, including not only birthdays but also notable business and personal anniversaries.

One of the newest cigar releases to join that list is the La Galera 85th Anniversary, a limited edition was created to recognize the 85th anniversary of Tabacalera Palma, the Dominican factory owned by José “Jochy” Blanco. The release is up of two separate blends—both in the same 6 x 52 toro vitola—packaged in the same box: one of which was blended by Blanco while the other was blended by his son, José Manuel Blanco.

“When we sat down to think of ways to accurately convey what this occasion meant to us, we both decided to consult our fathers,” said José Manuel Blanco in a press release. “My father revisited dozens of scribbles and stand-alone paragraphs in my grandfather’s notebooks and reexamined the tobacco growing and processing wisdom of two generations, along with the cigar manufacturing wisdom of one generation. I borrowed my father’s wisdom after bribing him with some cheap whiskey,” he added.

Blend-wise, both cigars incorporate American-seed wrappers; however, the younger Blanco’s wrapper is a Connecticut broadleaf, while the leaf used on Jochy Blancho’s cigar is an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. Internally, both cigars use the same Dominican corojo binder along with Dominican piloto cubano and criollo 98 fillers, all of which were grown on the company’s Potrero and La Canela farms.

The La Galera 85th Anniversary is packaged in a box of 20 cigars that contain 10 of each blend and features a lid that can be used as an ashtray. A total of 2,021 boxes were produced, and the full box has an MSRP of $290 while individual cigars are priced at $14.50. The cigars were shown off during the 2021 PCA Convention & Trade Show and began showing up at retailers in January.

There are two different La Galera 85th Anniversary cigars.

  • La Galera 85th Anniversary Jochy Blancho’s Blend (6 x 52) — $14.50 (Box of 20, $290)
  • La Galera 85th Anniversary José Manuel Blanco’s Blend (6 x 52) — $14.50 (Box of 20, $290)

  • Cigar Reviewed: La Galera 85th Anniversary José Manuel Blanco’s Blend
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera Palma
  • Wrapper: U.S.A. (Connecticut Broadleaf)
  • Binder: Dominican Republic (Corojo)
  • Filler: Dominican Republic (Criollo 98 & Piloto Cubano)
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $14.50 (Box of 20, $290)
  • Release Date: January 2022
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,021 Boxes of 10 Cigars (20,210 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Visually, the wrapper on José Manuel Blanco’s version of the La Galera 85th Anniversary is milk chocolate brown with a reddish tint in certain light. Two of the cigars feature very parchment rough-to-the-touch wrappers, while the third is quite a bit more smooth and also features a bit more oil. All three cigars have the same soft spot in the same location—just under the secondary band to the right—as well as a noticeable box-press to the foot. Aroma from the wrapper features one very strong note—specifically, dense dark chocolate—along with earth, leather, manure, generic wood and a touch of floral. The foot is also dominated by the same dark chocolate scent, but there are new aromas when compared to the wrapper, including nutmeg, peanuts earth, espresso beans and slight vanilla sweetness. Finally, after a straight cut the cold draw is all over the map: one sample features a distinct asparagus flavor along with cedar, leather, earth and powdery cocoa nibs, while the other two have more of the familiar dark chocolate combined with gritty earth, toasted bread, berry sweetness, leather and a slight floral note.

Dark chocolate and spice are the first things I notice in the initial puffs after lighting the foot of the La Galera 85th Anniversary. While both remain top flavors, shortly, they are joined by a bready popcorn note that sticks around until the end of the first third. Secondary flavors of strong, aromatic cedar, roasted coffee beans, sourdough bread, earth and a very light vegetal note flit in and out at various points, while the retrohale features plenty of both black pepper and distant blackberry sweetness. The flavor starts off with a bang at a solid medium, while both body and strength seem joined at the hip at just under medium. In terms of construction, two of the three samples give me no issues at all, but my first cigar features a draw that is quite a bit looser than I prefer, most likely due to a hole in the filler (more on that below in the Final Notes.) Even with that problem, the burn only needs to be corrected twice and smoke production on that cigar is plentiful.

Popcorn—now laced with some mineral saltiness—and dark chocolate remain the top flavors during the second third of the cigar, followed by notes of cedar, leather tack, earth, oatmeal and hay. However, there is one major change in the profile, namely a change on the retrohale, where the black pepper has shifted to a stronger red pepper note, albeit one that clashes a bit at times with the blackberry sweetness that is still present. Flavor increases to a point just above medium and the body has reached a solid medium, while the strength remains just under medium. Thankfully, the draw on the problematic sample has improved dramatically—and the draw on the other two cigars remains excellent—and two cigars need minor corrections.

While the main flavors continue to be a combination of dark chocolate and salted popcorn during the final third, a new floral note becomes evident on the finish of the La Galera 85th Anniversary, a note that gets a bit stronger as the cigar burns down. Additional flavors of earth, espresso beans, tobacco, baker’s spices, cedar and generic nuts make themselves known in various amounts, while the retrohale remains full of red pepper—albeit slightly less than in the second third—and blackberry sweetness. Flavor ends the cigar at medium-full, body ends just above medium and the strength hits a solid medium before stalling out. Finally, the construction on all three cigars finally seems to be humming along with no issues in either the burn or the draw.

Final Notes

  • In 2016, La Galera released the 80th Anniversary Limited Edition, which celebrated the anniversary of Blanco’s factory Tabacalera Palma, which was founded in 1936.
  • If you are wondering about the fact that the 85th anniversary cigar was released 86 years after the anniversary, there is a simple reason behind the discrepancy: these boxes were supposed to be shipped last year in September but were delayed until earlier this year.

  • As mentioned above, the first sample I smoked featured a very loose draw, due in part to a massive hole in the foot that apparently ran at least an inch down. However, the draw improved dramatically after the first third, coincidentally around the same time that the hole in the foot closed up.
  • Also as noted above, my first sample featured a strong asparagus note on the cold draw—raw, not grilled—a flavor I was a bit surprised to taste in a cigar.
  • Somewhat coincidentally, I recently reviewed another cigar that is packaged with two blends in one box; namely, the AVO Improvisation LE22. Of course, there have been other releases that include two different blends in one box in the past, including the Perez-Carrillo 10th Anniversary Humidor as well as the My Father Commemorative 911 Blend 343 Firefighter Limited Edition 2012.
  • In addition, there have been other cigars that have been packaged in boxes that include either a lid or other parts that can be used as an ashtray, including the Davidoff Chefs Edition 2021 and the Plasencia Alma Fuerte.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time averaged one hour and 51 minutes across the three samples.

Update (May 17, 2022) — The original version of this post says that José Manuel’s blend used notes from his grandfathers, it was in fact Jochy’s blend that used notes from his father.

88 Overall Score

Just about any 85th anniversary should be a big deal, and I am happy to say that the La Galera 85th Anniversary José Manuel Blanco’s Blend more than lives up to any expectations that are brought on by the notable date. Flavorful and complex, the blend is highlighted by notes of rich dark chocolate and semi-salted popcorn as well as a distinct blackberry sweetness on the retrohale. Having said that, there were some construction issues in the first third of one of the samples and there were times in the second third when the red pepper on the retrohale had some minor effects on the balance. Taking everything into account, the La Galera 85th Anniversary José Manuel Blanco’s Blend is an excellent blend to commemorate such an important anniversary.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.